HEARING OR SEEING THE WORD “HOME” immediately brings a comforting feeling, usually. Home is not necessarily just a structure that you lived in; home can be the place of your origin, where your earliest memories were born. I have the good fortune of still living within driving distance to the place where I grew up. Driving down the old neighborhood streets unlocks my memory vault, letting past images flash inside of my brain. The main commercial avenue where we did most of our shopping looks so different now. However, I still see in my mind the hamburger shop where I used to get my burger and French fries to take home to eat. The old grocery store which was tiny by today’s standards is now one of those discount stores where everything is under $5.00. Yet I can still see me and my friends running to the variety store where we would buy our penny candies. Every summer we would also buy kites to take down to the beach. We would run through the sand with our kites lifted behind us, waiting for a gust of air to lift them into the air. My kite would always have a long tail that I made with different colored ribbons. HOME CAN ALSO BE A PLACE that you found where you feel the most comfortable. A place where people of like minds become fast friends; a patch of land that speaks to your heart, hidden in the woods perhaps. I became acutely aware of this phenomenon when I went away to school. As soon as I walked down the hallway to my dorm room I noticed a difference between me and the other students on the floor. Many of them had blonde hair and blue eyes; both my hair and eyes were dark. Later I discovered many students came from farmlands, whereas I grew up in a large city. There always seemed to be a disconnect between me and my fellow students. Whether it was our humor or morals or some other aspect of our lives; it always seemed as if we were on different pages. I longed to return to a place where I did not have to explain my thoughts and feelings, where we could share similar life experiences. From a place where I felt alone, all I longed for was to find a place where there were others like me. It was the same for the main character in this animated, adventure comedy. TIRED OF BEING ALONE FOR SO long Mr. Link, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, The Campaign), convinces explorer Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise), to help him find that special place he could call home. Their journey would involve more discoveries than they had planned. With Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Star Trek franchise) voicing Adelina Fortnight, David Walliams (Stardust, Dinner for Schmucks) voicing Mr. Lemuel Lint and Timothy Olyphant (A Perfect Getaway, Mother’s Day) voicing Willard Stenk; this movie studio created another beautiful film. The visuals were wonderful to watch as the studio’s use of Claymation brought a whole different feeling to the story. The script was sweet with a charming message; however, compared to their previous movies I felt this one was a bit mild. Don’t get me wrong; it was fun and family appropriate. It just came across as almost too sweet; as if it was trying to appeal to the masses, instead of delving deeper into the story and visuals. There were a couple of times where my mind started to wander, which usually doesn’t happen with this studio’s pictures. Nonetheless, most viewers will enjoy this movie and its message. And make sure you stay during the credits to see how one of the scenes was created.
2 ¾ stars
THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere. SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life. SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.
WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars
There was nothing more exciting than having one of our parents be a chaperone for a school field trip when we were in the early grades of elementary school. I remember how proud each of us was when it was our turn to bring our mother or father along on one of those trips to the zoo, museum and other places around the city. Funny by the time we reached between 6th and 8th grade, the last thing we wanted was to have one of our parents show up anywhere near us, especially at the school dance. Heaven help us if they decided to go out on the dance floor and “cut a rug” as their child stood in horror, wishing they could melt into the floor. I think all of us at one point in our lives did not want our parents to be around our friends for a variety of reasons. No kid wanted their parent to call them by their pet name or ask nosy questions of their friends. I remember one friend who’s mother had to know where he was every minute of the day. If we were playing out in front she would periodically stick her head out the window to look for us. If she could not see us her yell could be heard down the block as she screamed out his name. There were some parents who were odd to us kids; we just chalked it up to them being old, old being a relative term here. As far as I can remember none of my friends’ parents acted like the one in this dramatic comedy. MAGGIE, played by Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Words), was faced with a tough decision when she received her acceptance letter into the master’s program of the university. If she accepted she would have to go out of state to New York and leave her daughters Amelia and Faith, played by newcomer Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide (The Slap-TV), with their father Cameron, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who suffered with bipolar disorder. This film festival nominated movie was fortunate to have Mark play this character. He was exceptional in the role where I totally believed him. As for Zoe, I thought it was a smart move on her part to tackle this type of role and she was wonderful. The script overall was fine though there were a few times throughout the movie where things felt disjointed for me; I felt myself getting bored. Still on the strength of the acting from the cast, this comedic drama that I understand was based on someone’s childhood was a compelling watch. I totally understood why the young girls did not want to have their friends over to their house.
As you turn the page of the novel you find an old photograph stuck between the pages. You see a younger you floating across a lake on an inner tube. Immediately memories flood your mind, flushing into your eyes as you can see and remember how the water was so cool and clear on that hot summer day. Absently you scratch your arm in the same spot where you had that reaction to the bug bite you got when you came out of the water. Besides the common things like photographs or hand-me-down objects that trigger one’s memory, I have always been fascinated with how the mind responds to what seems like random items to stimulate a memory. I can hear a couple of musical notes in a certain order and I get catapulted to a wide white concert hall where a full orchestra is in the middle of playing a romantic symphony. When driving through a densely tree lined street, images of a deceased relative well up into my consciousness because they had given me my first ride in a convertible car. The way the sunlight filters through the leaves, creating sparks across my windshield, reminds me of the car ride we had gone on. He had driven us down a long stretch of road so I could feel how the air would whoosh by me, tickling my ears. It seems as if memories of past relatives grow sweeter and softer as I grow older. DEATH was a place filled with celebrations, happiness and good food in this animated adventure film. Diego Luna (Milk, Elysiom) voiced Manolo, a man who was willing to die for Maria, voiced by Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy). He would have to fight his way through the dead and living worlds if he had any hope of seeing her again. The cool thing about this movie was the way the writers took the subject of death and turned it into a less scary place. I believe the story was based on the holiday Day of the Dead, though I am not familiar with it. For that reason I may have been at a disadvantage in the way I interpreted this movie. Granted some could consider this an odd idea for a children’s film and it did cross my mind as well. I understand how much easier death would be if we were taught to look at it as a celebratory passage in time and this picture did its best in that regard. The writers treated the subject with sensitivity which I could appreciate. However, I did not find anything special or unique about this picture. Yes the visuals were fun to watch and some of the dialog was cute, but I certainly wasn’t blown away like I had been with other animated films. After a short time has passed, I doubt I will have any memories left of me having seen this animated comedy.
2 1/2 stars
Any story or event becomes enhanced with the addition of an unexpected surprise. If I were to tell you that every 25th person who visited my movie site would get a gift card to a movie theater, I am sure the people who received the cards enjoyed reading my reviews more than the ones who did not get a gift card. If I read a news story about someone doing an extraordinary feat in the middle of a crisis, like a person lifting a heavy piece of machinery that accidentally rolled on top of a child, I feel more invested in the story and will probably remember it for a longer time. There was the time I was at a friend’s wedding reception where his introverted cousin, who used to hang out with us, was called up to give a toast. Instead of giving a speech filled with embarrassing or funny tidbits about the groom, the cousin had secretly made arrangements with the band and performed a couple of my friend’s favorite songs. The big surprise was no one knew the cousin could even sing; he amazed everyone with his incredible voice. So you see, experiencing the unexpected can provide a memorable time. SURPRISED by the unexpected was used to the maximum to enhance this science fiction adventure film. Chris Pratt (Delivery Man, Moneyball) played Peter Quill, a space traveler who was being hunted down after he stole a mysterious metal artifact. Only the evil Ronan, played by Lee Pace (The Hobbit franchise, Lincoln), had an idea what the metal object contained and he was determined to get it from Peter. This action movie had one of the most unusual opening scenes I had ever seen in the superhero genres; I suggest you do not come in late to the movie. Speaking of the superhero genre, the cast in this fun film consisted of some of the most unlikely characters and I do mean characters one will ever see as superheroes. Besides Peter who preferred to be called Star Lord, there was Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Columbiana) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (Riddick, The Man with the Iron Fists) as Drax, Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room) who voiced the character Groot and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Hit and Run) who voiced Rocket. I loved this movie on so many levels. First was the awesome soundtrack; it pretty much played out like an extra character of the cast. The humor, snide remarks, action and special effects were terrific, all fitting together to create something different from any previous superhero film. There was not one time where I felt bored; every scene provided something to look at, feel or think about. I had no idea this motley crew would help make this picture a total, unexpected surprise for me. There was a brief extra scene after the credits.
3 1/2 stars
When the opportunity presents itself I take a drive through the neighborhood where I grew up. I see ghosts of my youth everywhere I look. Playing hide & seek or selling lemonade on the corner, my memories waken from a long sleep. They are refreshed and vivid allowing me to visit with the younger me, showing events that contributed to who I would become as an adult. It is that history that reminds me how I currently arrived at this point in my life. Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Lost-TV) treated the history of Star Trek with the utmost respect for this 2nd movie in the relaunched franchise. The story was brilliant as we found the Enterprise crew back on Earth, unaware they would encounter a dangerous villain close to home. Besides Chris Pine (This Means War, Unstoppable) as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Margin Call, Heroes-TV) as Spock, there was the addition of Peter Weller (RoboCop, the Hard Easy) as Marcus and Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse, Atonement) as John Harrison. In this go around; the characters were more complex, filled with deeper feelings. Zachary was so incredible that I forgot about Leonard Nimoy for the moment, the original Spock. Chris earned my respect with what he did in this movie. I could almost hear William Shatner cursing at Chris’ exemplary performance. The nonstop action was exciting and evenly balanced to allow flourishes of drama and honestly, giving the movie goers a chance to catch their breath. I cannot add anything further to this review without giving away hints to the plot. Hopefully when people talk about this movie and they will, they do not say much about the story or cast. The added suspense, at least for me, made the time fly by. Also, I felt emotionally spent. Whether you grew up in the world of Star Trek or not will not make much of a difference in loving this film. History is what makes us who we are today; I tip my hat to the current custodian of the historical vaults of Star Trek, J.J. Abrams. A nice touch in the beginning of the credits. There were brief scenes with blood in it.
3 2/3 stars for Trekkies 3 1/2 stars for non-Trekkies
After the layers are peeled away, the one thing that we have left is our word. I place a high value on a person’s word. One of my biggest pet peeves has been someone telling me they will do something, then not following through with it. When a person does not place importance on their word, it bruises my trust in them. There are always consequences to such actions and writer Rory Jansen, played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Hit and Run), would eventually find this out. Discovering an unnamed manuscript inside an old briefcase his wife Dora, played by Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Columbiana), bought him; Rory chose to take the story and copy it word for word. When Dora found and read the magnificent story she thought her husband had written, that was the little push Rory needed to move forward and see if he could get “his” book published. Not only was the book published, but it became a huge bestseller; with its touching story about a young couple falling in love. This dramatic film almost had all the pieces to be an outstanding movie, but sadly did not achieve it. The issue I had with the movie was the running of 3 story lines simultaneously. If the focus was narrowed to Rory’s story line and the book’s tale, that would have been more than enough. The cast’s acting was good, with Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers, Margin Call) doing a wonderful bit of acting as the Old Man. It really was a shame more time wasn’t spent on editing the story and allowing the characters more depth and back story. I am not sure why, but the movie attracted an elderly crowd; who came prepared with their own bags of candy. At the end of the film I felt let down. Words are what make us human; actions are what defines us.
2 1/2 stars